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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Former National Security Adviser Taking Heat; Shoot-out in Saudi Arabia

Aired July 20, 2004 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Welcome. Glad to have you with us tonight.
Samuel "Sandy" Berger quit today as an informal adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign. He did so less than 24 hours after news broke that he has been under investigation for taking secret documents from the National Archives. The story just days before the 9/11 Commission is expected to release its final report and less than a week before the start of the Democratic Convention. So, beyond the serious national security questions the story raises, it is also powerful ammunition for partisan politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger is under criminal investigation in connection with his removal of papers from the National Archives. A Berger associate, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says the FBI searched his home and office earlier this year, looking for classified documents related to the 9/11 Commission.

"I inadvertently took a few documents from the archives," Berger said in a statement. There were no cameras in the archive's room. Law enforcement sources say archive staff told FBI agents they saw Berger placing items in his jacket and pants, which Berger admits. And one archive staffer told agents Berger also placed something in his socks, which Berger associates heatedly deny.

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I suggest that person is lying. And if that person has the guts, let's see who it is who made the comment that Sandy Berger stuffed something into his socks.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: If he's just folding something and putting it in his jacket, that is a perfectly ordinary thing for someone to do. If he's taking documents and stuffing them in his socks, obviously trying to avoid the scrutiny of security people, that's something else. And if he did that, he's in very big trouble.

TOOBIN: The papers were handwritten notes, classified documents. And according to a government source, some were code-word materials, the highest level of sensitivity in the U.S. government, a higher classification than even nuclear secrets.

The subject, the Clinton administration's handling of terrorist plots to disrupt the millennium celebrations. Berger says he returned all the papers, "except for a few documents that apparently I had accidentally discarded," he says in a statement. "I deeply regret the sloppiness involved, but had no intention of withholding documents from the commission," Berger stated.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was surprised by the story, because I know Sandy for a long time. Everything I know about him says to me he respects the route of law. He's obviously a patriotic American. And these are serious investigations that are going on.

JAMES COMEY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We take issues of classified information very, very seriously. And, as you know, we have prosecuted or sought administrative sanctions against any number of people throughout the years for mishandling of classified information.

TOOBIN: Susan Page of "USA Today" talked with Berger's lawyer.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": He said that there are not originals missing, that these are copies of documents, that there's no document that is now off the -- not available to investigators because he took it home. But I would say, even though we can debate the timing of this, that of course Sandy Berger gave Republicans the ammunition to make this an issue by this peculiar behavior.

ZAHN: The speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, was quick to question what was in those papers. "What information could be so embarrassing that a man with decades of experience in handling classified documents would risk being caught pilfering our nation's most sensitive secrets?" Hastert said in a press release. "Did these documents detail simple negligence or did they contain something more sinister? Was this a bungled attempt to rewrite history and keep critical information from the 9/11 Commission and potentially put their report under a cloud?" Hastert stated.

The 9/11 Commission report comes out Thursday. That and the fact that the Democratic National Convention is just days away has prompted questions about the timing of this leak, since the Berger investigation has been going on for months. A government source tells CNN, the 9/11 Commission was briefed on the Berger investigation but the White House was never informed. Today, a Bush administration source told CNN, any suggestion the Justice Department leaked the investigation on purpose now is simply not true.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And joining us now, regular contributor and "TIME" columnist Joe Klein, from Washington tonight, justice correspondent Kelli Arena.

Welcome to you both.

Kelli, I understand that Sandy Berger just made a statement. Can you characterize for us what he just said?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a very short statement.

He came out and addressed the cameras and said, look, I made an honest mistake, which I deeply regret. And everything that I have done up until this point has been in the interest of helping the 9/11 Commission get their work done. That was it, didn't take any questions, went back into his house.

ZAHN: An honest mistake, Joe? A lot of people are scratching their heads tonight, saying, how can a former national security adviser, who knew it was against the rules to take notes, would not only do that but leave the archives with these documents? Was he just stupid?

JOE KLEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this was wildly stupid if it was stupidity.

And the people I talked to on the 9/11 Commission said that the note-taking process was really discreet in this case. People were allowed to take notes. Commission members were allowed to take notes. And then they had to file them in the room. They weren't even allowed to walk out of the room with the notes. So Berger obviously did something wrong. Whether this is a venial or a mortal sin, we have yet to find out.

But I've known Sandy Berger for over 10 years. And the idea that he would do something mortally sinful like this, stuff things in his sock and whatever, is about as likely...

ZAHN: Which he has denied that part of the story, but he has not denied mixing classified documents up with his own business papers in a leather portfolio.

KLEIN: Now, that's semi "Absent-Minded Professor" plausible.

But what I was going to say was the notion that he would do something mortally sinful is about as likely as Brent Scowcroft or George Shultz or name your foreign policy priesthood member. This is a very solid, decent guy. I'd be shocked if there was something really terrible that he did here.

ZAHN: Is there an innocent explanation you're hearing, Kelli Arena, tonight for what happened here?

ARENA: Well, from his lawyer. His lawyer says, look, he picked up documents. He had his leather folder with him, and he had set certain documents aside because they were longer. He knew they were going to take more time to read, and he inadvertently picked them up.

But the question of course is, what happened to them after the fact? So the questions are, if you're going through those and you realize you have something you're not supposed to have, don't you turn that in? So that is fueling some speculation. But there are two issues involved here, Paula. The notes that he took, while you're right in saying he's allowed to take them, procedure is that you're supposed to get those cleared, so that you haven't copied down any sensitive information. And Sandy Berger's lawyer tonight said, look, he knew that he was supposed to get them cleared and chose not to, and put them in his pocket, and that the notes were necessary. So there is an admission there that he knew he was doing something wrong. The other issue, which is taking those classified documents, that is illegal. You cannot remove classified documents.

And then there's the other question, were those documents shared with anybody who didn't have the right clearance? So these are the issues that the investigators are looking at.

ZAHN: Do we have any answers about the potential sharing of this material with others?

KLEIN: No, we don't. There was an implication today that he shared it with John Kerry and that Kerry later used this to help formulate his homeland security positions. But I think that's nonsense, because not only John Kerry, but every Democratic candidate had been really hitting Bush hard and specifically well before last October on specific homeland security issues like port security, which is allegedly -- the irony here, Paula, is I am told that the documents that were taken all made the Clinton administration look pretty good.

ZAHN: Final question to you, Kelli Arena, before we debate the timing of this leak here this evening, what is the Justice Department telling you about what it ultimately found in Sandy Berger's home?

ARENA: The Justice Department isn't saying anything, Paula. Their line is, this is an ongoing investigation, end of story. We don't comment on ongoing investigations.

What we have heard from sources is that they looked for these documents. They wanted to see if there was anything else there, anything to back up his story or to shoot it down. They came up empty. Those documents are gone. They have disappeared. We're told there are at least two documents, draft reports of this review of the Clinton administration's reaction to the millennium plot.

And I have to differ with something that was just said, because many of the sources that we have spoken to said that the report was fairly critical of that response. But it was meant to be, because Sandy Berger himself had ordered it and said, show me what we could have done better.

ZAHN: All right, you two, we've got to leave it there. Joe Klein, Kelli Arena, thanks so much.

Coming up next, fallout from the Sandy Berger controversy. A staunch defender and a strong critic speak out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We're talking now about the investigation into a former Clinton national security adviser, Sandy Berger, who just today stepped down as an adviser to the Kerry campaign. Joining us now from Seaside, California, Leon Panetta, who was chief of staff in the Clinton White House, and from Washington tonight, Republican Congressman Douglas Hunter, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Welcome, gentlemen. Good to see both of you.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER BILL CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF: Nice to be with you.

ZAHN: As we get started here, I wanted to share with our audience something Sandy Berger just had to say to reporters minutes ago. Let's all listen together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMUEL BERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Last year, when I was in the Archives reviewing documents, I made an honest mistake. It's one that I deeply regret.

I dealt with this issue in October 2003 fully and completely. Everything that I have done all along in this process has been for the purpose of aiding and supporting the work of the 9/11 Commission. And any suggestion to the contrary is simply, absolutely wrong.

Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Duncan Hunter, you've heard the man himself. An honest mistake here?

HUNTER: Sure.

And I think that rather than try to put Sandy Berger on the hot seat and say that he's not telling the truth, I think that what we need to do is simply find out what the facts are. And still I've seen the conflicting reports that the documents were put into his socks and other places and then reports to the effect that they weren't.

I think the one thing that has happened here is that in this world in which we wear two hats -- one is a partisan hat. Obviously, Sandy's a very strong member of the Kerry team and has a real interest in seeing Mr. Kerry elected and was a strong, obviously, national security adviser to the Clinton administration.

ZAHN: Right.

HUNTER: He has a partisan hat. But he has to put that aside and have a discipline, if you will, when you get into the area of classified material. That's when we all have to work toward the national interest.

And he definitely lost that discipline in taking these -- whether they were in his socks or his hat or whatever, or did he just put him in his pocket, when he took those documents out of that room. And I'd like to see the facts. I'd like to see the people that made those reports.

ZAHN: I understand you're waiting for that information, but help me with this. Are you saying you will until we have those facts? Are you willing to give him the benefit of the doubt?

HUNTER: Well, sure, I'm willing to take him at his word that he had -- that this was an honest mistake. On the other hand, I want to see what was lost and what apparently hasn't been recovered.

But, at the same time, I'll listen to the folks who apparently saw those things and reported that he was placing those documents in his clothes and going out with them.

ZAHN: Mr. Panetta, even if this was an honest mistake, you have known Sandy Berger for a number of years. Why would he be this careless? Why would he take notes, which he was allowed to do, but leave with the notes, which he wasn't supposed to leave with from the archives?

PANETTA: I think we have to take Sandy at his word. As you said, I've known him over 10 years. And he is a man of integrity and honesty and has always served this nation really as a patriot in his work as national security adviser.

I think he did make a mistake. I think all of us probably need to take a collective breath here and allow the investigation to proceed. These things always get heightened attention, particularly in the political season. But I think very frankly we ought to allow the investigation to proceed. This is something as I understand it that has been investigated since last October. So obviously, there's some question as to whether or not the Justice Department has really been able to find any real violation of the law.

So let's let the investigation proceed and then draw our conclusions based on that.

ZAHN: Do you think this was leaked, Duncan Hunter, leaked to the press because of the political motivation?

HUNTER: I have no idea how it got in the press. I think everything gets in the press in this town, whether there's political motivation or not. I think it's a juicy story because the archive, one of the archive people according to the press said they saw him putting things in his socks.

And I think if they hadn't said that, this story would not be as attractive as it is to folks. But I think I'm like Leon. I'd like to see the facts. But the other disturbing fact is that, OK, the documents were taken and they were taken outside of the archives. As I understand it, some of them have never been returned. And the idea that you take classified documents, sensitive documents, and then you throw them away or you dispose of them in some way, that's very troubling. And I think that's another thing that's made this story continue, because the documents haven't come back. Maybe they have come back at this point.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Mr. Panetta, some of the investigators and our sources have shared with us is that fact that they are not sure if this information was shared with anybody outside of Sandy Berger. Final question to you. Do you think national security has been compromised by this breach?

PANETTA: The reason I don't think there's anything sinister here is because, as I understand it, these were notes and copies of material that currently rests in the archives. They're available to the 9/11 Commission. They're available to the administration. They're available to Republicans and Democrats.

I don't think there was information here that was destroyed or altered. I think the information is there. Secondly, I think that, clearly, it is the political season. I know there's going to be a lot of attention paid to this, a lot of speculation, a lot of allegations. But, as I said, I hope everybody kind of sits down and looks at the facts before drawing any conclusions.

ZAHN: And we'll follow the investigation from here.

Gentlemen, Congressman Hunter, Leon Panetta, thanks to both of you.

HUNTER: Good to be with you.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Our pleasure.

Coming up, the transformation from entertainer to energizer. P. Diddy tackles politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Some breaking news to share with you tonight. We want to bring you up to date on this developing story right now.

Saudi security forces, police, and National Guard units have been involved in a major shoot-out in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda suspects have been targeted. We are told at least two have been killed.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is there. He joins us now.

Good evening, Nic.

What can you tell us about this operation?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Paula.

Certainly, one of the largest operations that I've seen here over the last month or so. One very significant or potentially significant detail emerging. Along with two dead, three al Qaeda members wounded. But we're also told that Saleh al-Oufi wife has been arrested by police. This is potentially significant.

Saleh al-Oufi is currently the head of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. So that perhaps is a very significant development. Possibly also this al Qaeda leader may be among those that are wounded, although that's not clear at this stage, Paula.

ZAHN: What kind of activities are linked to this al Qaeda leader?

ROBERTSON: He took over the leadership of al Qaeda about a month ago. He took over when Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin was killed in another shoot-out with the police. Muqrin was responsible for the kidnapping, the beheading of U.S. engineer Paul Johnson a month ago. Paul Johnson's body has still not been discovered.

But al-Oufi moved into the leadership. He hasn't been in the leadership for long, an indication that we are told here that al Qaeda is in somewhat of disarray.

ZAHN: There was a safe house being that was surrounded by Saudi security forces. Is that still under siege?

ROBERTSON: The whole area is essentially under siege. We've literally just returned. An area perhaps two miles by two miles is sealed off. And even while we were there, more reinforcements were going in. It appears as if the police are going to go street by street through this area.

Now, whether or not there's a safe house at the center of this operation, it's still unclear. Often, what happens with these operations is, a lot of rumors come out. A lot of detailed information emerges that is later clarified by Saudi officials. But it would be typical of what we've seen over the recent weeks, that after these operations, Saudi officials have captured either explosives, explosive making equipment, or in other cases weapons.

And on this occasion, they say they believe that one of the buildings surrounded contains a lot of weapons, a lot of automatic weapons.

ZAHN: Even if this al Qaeda leader does not end up being killed in this operation, will this be viewed as a small victory on terrorism in Saudi Arabia?

ROBERTSON: I think what we're seeing here is an increasing effectiveness, if you will, of all the different security forces operating.

What we saw, what we've seen here this evening, the police, the National Guard, the elite anti-terrorist unit, the special security forces, all coming together incredibly quickly. At one point, when we were out at the scene, dozens of police vehicles, heavy armored vehicles were arriving at the same time.

It appears to indicate that Saudi security can act very, very quickly. We were on the scene within about 45 minutes of the shoot- out starting. And it appears to show that the Saudi security forces are able to coordinate and act more quickly. So perhaps it is beginning to show that they're beginning to be more effective in their operations and it appears at the same time kill and capture and wound four members of al Qaeda.

ZAHN: An encouraging development, at the minimum.

Nic Robertson, thanks so much for that update.

Coming up next, U.S. citizens headed for trial in Afghanistan, an American cameraman and accusations of a freelance hunt for terrorists.

And later, laughing all the way to the November election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

Tomorrow, three Americans are scheduled to go on trial in Afghanistan for allegedly setting up a fake prison. The prison was discovered at this house in Kabul during a raid earlier this month.

Police found eight Afghans being held in the house and said they had been there about 12 days. Afghan authorities say this man, Jonathan Idema, a former member of the U.S. military, had rented the house and claimed to be working with Afghan and American forces. But those forces say that wasn't the case. Police arrested Idema and two other Americans, including Edward Caraballo, a freelance journalist.

Caraballo says he was following Idema to gather footage for a documentary. His brother, Richard Caraballo, fears the three Americans will not get a fair trial in Afghanistan. He's with me here tonight.

Welcome.

RICHARD CARABALLO, BROTHER JAILED IN AFGHANISTAN: Hello, Paula.

ZAHN: What is your greatest fear about your brother's welfare?

CARABALLO: My greatest fear is that he's going to be lynched by somebody who has an agenda to persecute these Americans. Basically, I don't know what's gone on there. I haven't had much contact with my brother. But what I do know is...

ZAHN: Have you had any contact at all?

CARABALLO: Through the State Department, through e-mails. On Sunday, when they were rushed into court surreptitiously, after there had been a meeting scheduled for the State Department to meet with the three defendants and have the first direct contact with their defense counsel -- but this was postponed. They rushed these guys into court. They called Associated Press.

And they basically charged them and they got a confession from them, according to this Associated Press report that I read.

ZAHN: So, in defense of your brother, you're basically saying he was in the wrong place at the wrong time?

CARABALLO: Absolutely. Absolutely.

ZAHN: You don't think there was any way he would have been involved with this Mr. Idema, who is accused of helping set up this fake prison?

(CROSSTALK)

CARABALLO: I'm sorry.

If you've known somebody for all your life, as I have with Eddie, and you know the kind of person that he is, it's an incredible stretch of the imagination to think that any of the things they're accusing him of, he could be capable of.

ZAHN: In any of the e-mails you've received, what did he say to you?

CARABALLO: Well, basically he said, Afghanistan is a beautiful country, that the people are very interesting. It was just a very -- he would just write things that sounded like a travelogue of Afghanistan.

ZAHN: But since the arrest, no direct contact with your brother?

CARABALLO: Since the arrest, we had a paragraph that we got early on when the State Department was assuring us, based on the assurances that they were getting, that he was OK.

ZAHN: This is what the State Department today had to say about your brother. Let's all listen together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The U.S. government has no connection with these individuals. There are procedures under way in Afghan courts. They'll have to make their case and prosecutors will have to make their case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So does that mean your brother is on his own?

CARABALLO: It would seem that way. But...

ZAHN: Is that disappointing to you?

CARABALLO: It's terribly disappointing to me.

ZAHN: What would you expect the State Department to say at this point, as they're trying to sift together the facts of this case?

CARABALLO: Well, I would expect them to make a real investigation, for instance the judicial procedure. There is nothing that resembles due process in this process.

Basically, all indications that I've had from my direct contact from the State Department in Kabul, there's a high possibility that this case could be closed down by Thursday, and these guys could be sentenced by Thursday.

Now, the penalties are 16 to 20 years. At one point, they were talking about death. They said that the judge has wide latitude for remedies for the accusations, which there's been -- there's been no discovery by defense counsel. Defense counsel is scrambling to get visas and prepare to fly over there.

There's very little -- I'm sorry, so basically that's the situation. It's a bit of a -- it is a nightmare.

ZAHN: It's a terrible position to be put in, as a family member.

CARABALLO: Absolutely. Absolutely.

ZAHN: I know that you're waiting for answers from the State Department, as well. We thank you for sharing your brother's story with us.

CARABALLO: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: We look forward to hearing more of the facts, as well.

We're going to take a short break here. When we come back, rap mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs joins us as he goes on a mission to get out the youth vote. He'll join us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: If the polls are right, this year's presidential election could be very close, perhaps even closer than the contested 2000 election.

Because of that, every vote will count, and a small amount of votes going one way or another could make a huge difference. That's why a number of campaigns are now under way to get as many people as possible to the polls this November.

Well, today, hip-hop star Sean "P. Diddy" Combs launched his own voter registration effort. It is his latest venture in what has been a hugely successful career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Sean "P. Diddy" Combs has certainly become more than a self-described bad boy of hip-hop. According to "Forbes" magazine, he's a $250 million entertainment mogul.

He's also a fashion designer; a do-gooder, running the New York marathon to raise more than $2 million for local city schools.

SEAN "P. DIDDY" COMBS, ENTERTAINER: Just tell me where you want to go and you'll go.

ZAHN: A Broadway star, appearing in the Tony Award winning revival of "Raisin in the Sun."

COMBS: On a serious note, I am here today to launch my campaign, my campaign for the people.

ZAHN: And now, he's a political activist.

COMBS: Now we're going to make voting cool. We are the true leaders of today.

ZAHN: Today, he launched Citizen Change, his very own initiative to turn out the youth and minority vote.

At his annual July 4th white party, where everyone wears white, Combs kicked off his get out the vote campaign with a crowd of celebrities and glitterati, and an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, borrowed from producer Norman Lear.

Celebrities rocking the youth vote is not new. Madonna started it all off in 1991, and was followed by Aerosmith. Iggy Pop.

DREW BARRYMORE, ACTRESS: Voting is not only our right; it's our responsibility.

ZAHN: Drew Barrymore. And this year, in a new effort called Declare Yourself, stars like Christina Aguilera have lent their celebrity power to encourage the country's youth to get out and vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Register to vote now.

ZAHN: And there are a lot of votes at stake. Eighteen to 24- year-olds represent more than 20 million votes. That is one out of every five potential voters.

Historically, the youth vote tends to stay home on election day more than any other age group. And more now than ever before.

According to census figures in 2000, only 36 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 voted in the presidential election. That's down from 50 percent in 1972, the year voter eligibility dropped from age 21 to 18.

Politicians and celebrity advocates like Combs are hoping this year will be different. Polls are showing that many young people are concerned about the war in Iraq, the economy, and funding cuts to education.

And recent surveys indicate a rise in the number of college students who say they will vote this election year, a rise that everyone recognizes could swing the election. A rise that could mean the difference between winning and losing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And joining me now, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. Welcome.

COMBS: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

ZAHN: My pleasure. Out of respect, what is it I'm supposed to call you? I'm so confused about your name.

COMBS: Whatever you feel. Whatever flows off your tongue, whatever makes you feel comfortable, Paula.

ZAHN: It's Diddy tonight, isn't it? Can I go with that?

COMBS: You can call me Diddy, and then you can go back and forth with Sean, you know. I like you a lot, I'm a big fan of yours, so I feel comfortable with letting you use the name Sean. My mother uses that name.

ZAHN: Just the two of us. Well, thank you very much.

Let's talk about what you're trying to do here, get out the youth vote.

COMBS: Yes.

ZAHN: We know all the obvious reasons why kids don't get out there.

COMBS: Yes.

ZAHN: We know they're mobile. Some are moving every two months to try to find jobs. What is the message that you're trying to get out there to kids, to make them go to the polls?

COMBS: To be honest, one of the main reasons why young people and minorities don't vote is because politicians don't speak their language. But one of the things in order for us to make a change, we have to stand up and vote.

And this year, because it's neck and neck, the election, we have over 40 million strong. And we will be the deciding factor for who is the next president of the United States.

ZAHN: How are you going to do it? People have attempted this before.

COMBS: We have a well thought out, intricate plan. We launched an organization called Citizen Change, which is a nonpartisan, not- for-profit organization. And we're going to really -- just the same way we make things hot as cultural leaders, we're going to make this election relevant by educating, motivating and empowering the youth to vote.

And we're going to do it by the same way we would launch and market a 50 Cent album, a Biggie album, "The Matrix," "Spider-Man," or some Sean John clothing. We've been able to make a lot of things hot and cool, from the clothes we wear to the bling-bling we wear, to the cars we buy.

ZAHN: Funny, I didn't notice any of the bling-bling today. You're blinding me over here.

COMBS: No, we're going to utilize -- utilize the talents that God has blessed me with and God has blessed my other cultural leaders with to really get this message out there.

So one of the biggest ways we've done this is by a well thought out plan. We've entered into partnerships with MTV and BET, who this is the world this community is in. ClearChannel, RadioOne. Also by combining -- those are the radio stations.

ZAHN: Sure.

COMBS: Also by combining the music. I'm going to produce a record. Also combining politics and fashion for this first time. I teamed up with some of my counterparts and competitors, Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Ecko, Rocawear, Phat Farm, Russell Simmons. Together we have come to -- to promote this message.

ZAHN: Vote or die. So you're trying to make it cool to vote.

COMBS: This vote is life or death. We're going to make it cool, but most importantly, we're going to make it relevant and we're going to educate.

ZAHN: How old were you the first time you voted?

COMBS: That was only in 2000; 2000 was the first time I voted.

ZAHN: What took you so long to take the trip to the polls?

COMBS: What took me so long? Is because nobody was speaking my language. And I wasn't educated in the power of my vote. I thought that if I didn't vote, that that was me being rebellious.

But no, the true revolution is when you do vote. And that's what we're trying to school this young community to.

ZAHN: Is there a part of you, thinking of the road you've traveled today, here you are, this guy worth hundreds of millions of dollars. You starred in a Broadway play, you're this entrepreneur. You're doing all these exciting things.

Is there a part of you that's embarrassed that you weren't motivated to vote until just the year 2000?

COMBS: Not at all. I don't -- I don't make any excuses for the way my life has gone down. I mean, it's not -- I think a lot of the responsibility has -- also has to be put on the politicians, who are supposed to be there for us, who are also supposed to be speaking about needs that concern our lives. And we, just like politicians have a responsibility, we have a responsibility. And that's to vote. And this year is a great year to do it, because it's neck and neck.

And I trust you, trust me on this, that this year, that this community of voters -- we call them the forgotten ones -- will be forgotten no more. They're going to stand up and be heard, because we're going to make it relevant.

I've put together a coalition of the willing, of our willing, you know. It's as diverse as Ellen DeGeneres to 50 Cent to Jay Z to Leonardo DiCaprio, to Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Jessica Simpson, Mariah Carey. The list -- Ashton Kutcher, Jamie Foxx. The list goes on.

ZAHN: Is this nonpartisan?

COMBS: Yes. It's nonpartisan.

ZAHN: A lot of folks in our audience are thinking, give me a break, you know, this sounds like it could be a Democratic effort.

COMBS: Yes. If anybody knows me, I'm not controlled by anybody. I'm doing this because I want to do it. And I'm reaching out to all people from all parties, Democratic and Republican.

And to be honest, I'm not asking what party anybody is involved with. I'm asking them if they want to stay focused on empowering and motivating and educating young people to vote.

It's not about Bush. It's not about Kerry right now. It's really about the people and what the people need and empowering themselves and realizing their power and their vote come November 2.

ZAHN: Well, I know one thing for sure; you're certainly going to make it more fun than other people who have tried to drag kids to the polls before.

COMBS: Definitely. Definitely. We're going to have a great time. We're going to have a great time. We're going to energize. And we're going to bring more energy into this election than has ever been seen before.

ZAHN: I hope it works.

COMBS: Yes.

ZAHN: Thank you, Diddy. He gave me permission to call him that.

COMBS: Yes, yes, yes.

ZAHN: Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. His mother and I can call him that.

COMBS: Vote or die, baby. Vote this year; we're going to change the world. ZAHN: Thank you, Sean.

COMBS: Thank you.

ZAHN: Go Diddy go.

Still ahead, it's definitely not fair, but it is really, really balanced. When we come back, finding the humor in the race for the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): It's not going to help you, because I won three Purple Hearts. This land will surely vote for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Electing a president is serious business, but it's nice to know that some people are keeping a sense of humor through the campaign.

Here is one example on a Web site called JibJab.com.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): This land is your land; this land is my land. I'm a Texas tiger. You're a liberal wiener. I'm a great crusader. You're Herman Munster. This land will surely vote for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): This land is your land; this land is my land. I'm an intellectual, you're a stupid dumb (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I'm a Purple Heart winner, and yes it's true I won it thrice. This land will surely vote for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): You're a liberal sissy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): You're a right wing nut job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): You're a pinko commie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): You're dumb as a doorknob.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): You've got that Botox.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): But I still won three Purple Hearts. This land will surely vote for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This land was my land.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE (singing): But now it's our land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): From California...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): ... to the New York islands. What'd I do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): From the liberal wieners...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): ... to the right-wing nut jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): This land belongs...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): This land belongs...

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE (singing): This land belongs to you and me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, and Dick Cheney too!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Joining us now to find more humor in this campaign, political humorist Mark Katz, speech writer and former joke writer for President Clinton, as well as the author of "Clinton and Me: A Real Life Political Comedy," and also, political satirist Andy Borowitz.

You need a book, Andy.

ANDY BOROWITZ, POLITICAL SATIRIST: I know. It's coming.

ZAHN: Next time you come back, I'll push it for you.

BOROWITZ: It's coming.

ZAHN: So you're a voter sitting out there on the fence. You see this parody. Who are you drawn to? Mark?

MARK KATZ, AUTHOR, "CLINTON AND ME": Well, you know, this drew me in because so much of what we've seen is so partisan. Political humor this year is so much more political than ever before.

In the comedy war rooms of the campaigns, they're writing killer jokes that take actual casualties in battleground states.

And this is bipartisan, this thing, and that's why I think it's kind of -- it's been as popular as it has been. Because it's one of the few examples of kind of non-angry humor.

ZAHN: It is so popular that within three days, there were some five million hits. If you try to log on the normal way, you're not going to get on, because the site frequently crashes.

BOROWITZ: Yes. You know, I don't read as much into its popularity, because a lot of people downloaded Paris Hilton's tape, too. I think you can never underestimate America's desire to avoid working in the office. And that's one thing it satisfies.

However, having said that, it's really funny. I think most Americans would vote for either of those two guys as opposed to the real thing. Kerry, for example, is just so much peppier and happier than he is in real life. He ought to just take a leaf from two- dimensional Kerry. KATZ: "South Park" Kerry I think would do very well in this campaign.

ZAHN: How about the Bush stuff? Will it work?

BOROWITZ: I love just how blunt and unimaginative it is, that they're just calling each other stupid and wienies and all this stuff. They're not always careful to rhyme, which I think is a really nice touch.

It's just blunt, and it's sort of really what we think they really think of each other, which is I think is part of the sort of joy of it.

KATZ: But it's unifying. It's kind of like people are sending -- the reason why it's so popular is because people are sending it to their friends across the aisle. You know, it's a way for Al Franken to reach out to Bill O'Reilly.

BOROWITZ: Which I'm sure is happening at this very moment.

ZAHN: A veritable love fest.

KATZ: No, but it is kind of connecting people on both sides. And I think that's one of the reasons why it's been so popular.

And it's a great kind of digest. You could watch that thing, not have watched anything for the last year, and be just about up to date on the election.

ZAHN: Well, thank you very much. We try to educate people here every night.

(CROSSTALK)

In the end, does this kind of humor have any resonance with voters? I mean, clearly, people are sending this back and forth in the workplace, and it's funny. Does it mean anything; does it stick?

BOROWITZ: I would say no. I think this is just fun. I don't think this is going to change the way anybody votes. I mean, I think this is just -- it is a really enjoyable way to sort of poke fun at each other.

And I think if you really went in and you hate Kerry, you're going to love the jabs at Kerry -- you're just going to kind of tune out the things that they say about Bush and vice versa.

It's -- a lot of this election -- I think Mark probably has seen this too -- is just people preaching to the choir. It's, you know, it's preaching to the faithful. And this thing in a weird way does that, too. Because it's giving each side enough red meat. So it's under this sort of banner of bipartisanship, but...

KATZ: My guy's a jackass, your guy's a jackass. We're all jackasses. Let's get to the polls in November. BOROWITZ: Having said that, I heard -- When somebody first told me about JibJab, they said the message was uplifting. So there you go.

ZAHN: Actually, very uplifting...

KATZ: I agree completely. We're all jackasses.

BOROWITZ: And this land is made for you and me.

ZAHN: Great to see both of you. Thanks for dropping by tonight. Mark Katz, Andy Borowitz.

We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We close tonight with a special story, the story of Specialist Patrick McCaffrey, who became the 848th American service member to die in Iraq.

His mother sat down with our Thelma Gutierrez and talked about the pain of losing a son in war and what she is doing to keep his memory alive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NADIA MCCAFFREY, PATRICK MCCAFFREY'S MOTHER: This is the way my son came home, inside this coffin with a flag on it. This is the way that he came home before the Fourth of July.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On this street in Tracy, California...

MCCAFFREY: I'm sorry.

GUTIERREZ: Nadia McCaffrey mourns her only child.

MCCAFFREY: What can I say? I would have given my life for him.

GUTIERREZ: Army Specialist Patrick McCaffrey was on patrol with three other soldiers when they were ambushed outside of Baghdad.

MCCAFFREY: He was assaulted by two people on each side of his body with automatic weapons.

GUTIERREZ: Witnesses say McCaffrey went down fighting.

MCCAFFREY: "If you are reading this, I guess I didn't make it back. I hope that I fought bravely and made you proud. I don't know where to begin, but to tell you all that I love you."

GUTIERREZ: Nadia holds on to her son's final words, and she reads them over and over.

MCCAFFREY: "All I ever wanted was a better life for my children and a happy and prosperous life for my wife. I am forever grateful to God for letting me meet you and knowing true love and family life."

GUTIERREZ: McCaffrey joined the National Guard the day after September 11. But he never thought he'd see combat.

MCCAFFREY: "Don't worry, Mom, I know God is looking out for me. And I know because you are praying for me."

GUTIERREZ: He wrote often about Iraqi children.

MCCAFFREY: "I love the little children, though. They remind me of my own. And I always give them food and water, even though we're not supposed to. You know, I could use a box of flattened soccer balls with a pump and some Frisbees. I could hand them to the children as I pass through the small town."

GUTIERREZ: In May, his heart grew heavy.

MCCAFFREY: "I know you saw pictures of the prison episode with those prisoners and the abuse. We had a few bad, bad soldiers. Believe me, a lot of us are ashamed of them. And they don't deserve to wear our colors. Because of what they did, it has become very hard for us to deal with all of the Iraqis. But you and everyone else have to remember, that we are constantly -- constantly under attack."

GUTIERREZ: Again, it was the children who raised his spirits in his darkest hours.

MCCAFFREY: This picture, the last picture was taken of him where Patrick is holding the white flowers. He is glowing with joy because of this little present that he got from the children. That was approximately 45 minutes before he was shot.

GUTIERREZ: Patrick was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, small consolation for Nadia.

MCCAFFREY: I can't give him a hug anymore. And I can't pick up the phone from him calling from Iraq and saying, "Hi, Mom, I love you." No, I won't be able to hear that anymore.

GUTIERREZ: When Patrick's casket arrived in Sacramento, Nadia allowed the media to attend. Images of remains returning home are rarely seen.

MCCAFFREY: And I want the whole world to witness this. Not just for Patrick. This is not just for my son. He didn't die in vain. I want people to know who he is.

GUTIERREZ: At his memorial service, hundreds of yellow balloons were released with his name. One ended up in Pennsylvania. That person wrote this e-mail to Nadia.

MCCAFFREY: "For me, it just finally put a face on the war. I promise you that I will tell what I have learned about Patrick to everyone."

GUTIERREZ: For the baby who weighed five pounds at birth, who grew up to be an inquisitive boy, who became a caring father, and a brave soldier. Patrick's battle is over. But his mother's fight to keep his memory alive has just begun.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And what a legacy he has left for his family. That was our Thelma Gutierrez, reporting from Tracy, California.

That wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for being with us. Tomorrow, news about Alzheimer's, what you need to know about the latest advances and treatments. Plus, more on the fallout over Sandy Berger and a whole lot more.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next with the latest on the Peterson case. Again, thanks for joining us tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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